The Drowned Boy (Inspector Sejer Series #11)

The Drowned Boy (Inspector Sejer Series #11)

4.0 6
by Karin Fossum
     
 

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A new addition to the captivating Inspector Sejer series, the first since The Caller, from Norway’s finest crime writer

Carmen and Nicolai failed to resuscitate their son, Tommy, after finding him floating in their backyard pond. When Inspector Skarre arrives on the scene, Carmen reports that Tommy, a healthy toddler with

Overview


A new addition to the captivating Inspector Sejer series, the first since The Caller, from Norway’s finest crime writer

Carmen and Nicolai failed to resuscitate their son, Tommy, after finding him floating in their backyard pond. When Inspector Skarre arrives on the scene, Carmen reports that Tommy, a healthy toddler with Down syndrome, wandered into the garden while Nicolai was working in the basement and she was cleaning the house. Skarre senses something is off with Carmen’s story and consults his trusted colleague, the famed Inspector Sejer. An autopsy reveals Tommy’s lungs to be full of soap.

When Sejer and Skarre revisit the couple, Carmen, an epileptic, changes her story, confessing that she’d been knocked unconscious by a seizure while bathing Tommy. When she came to, she found him drowned in the tub and, horrified and frightened, threw him into the pond.

But Skarre and Sejer’s doubt is not appeased and the case is reopened. What more could Carmen be hiding? And what lengths will she take to cover her guilt? As Carmen’s own family starts to doubt her, Skarre and Sejer work to find the truth.
 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 06/08/2015
The drowning of 16-month-old Tommy Brandt sets the mournful tone for Fossum’s powerful and disturbing 11th Insp. Konrad Sejer mystery (after The Caller). Tommy’s hysterical mother, Carmen Zita, insists that the toddler wandered away from her on a hot day after she suffered an epileptic seizure; she later found his body in a pond near the house that she shares with the child’s reticent father, Nicolai. Sejer assumes at first that the drowning is just a tragic accident, but the mother’s odd demeanor—she’s so eager to move on—makes him suspect foul play. The subsequent autopsy proves that Tommy, who had Down syndrome but was otherwise healthy and happy, was indeed murdered. Fossum explores the aftershocks of the boy’s death for Carmen and Nicolai in a riveting tale that’s more psychological study than police procedural. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"When a young boy is found drowned in a pond near his home, it is explained away as an accident. Insp. Konrad Sejer suspects there is more to the story, however. As the mother, Carmen, changes her story to fit new evidence and the father spirals down into depression, Sejer pursues the evidence, even as it looks like the truth may never be known. The story is unraveled slowly, intermingling Sejer’s dogged investigation with diary entries written by the young mother. The real strength of the book lies in the characters Fossum has crafted. Sejer is not the typical unhappy, unhealthy Scandinavian detective; instead, he’s a widower who is kind to his suspects and colleagues alike. ­Verdict ­Fossom’s 12th Sejer installment doesn’t disappoint. Her writing style keeps the reader guessing to the final page. This title will appeal to mystery readers of all stripes."--Library Journal


"You really should at least be reading, if not collecting, the works of Karin Fossum. Not only is she the queen of Scandinavian detective fiction (or Nordic noir) she is one of the prime novelists working today in the mystery genre."--Bookgasm

"The drowning of 16-month-old Tommy Brandt sets the mournful tone for Fossum’s powerful and disturbing 11th Insp. Konrad Sejer mystery (after The Caller). Tommy’s hysterical mother, Carmen Zita, insists that the toddler wandered away from her on a hot day after she suffered an epileptic seizure; she later found his body in a pond near the house that she shares with the child’s reticent father, Nicolai. Sejer assumes at first that the drowning is just a tragic accident, but the mother’s odd demeanor—she’s so eager to move on—makes him suspect foul play. The subsequent autopsy proves that Tommy, who had Down syndrome but was otherwise healthy and happy, was indeed murdered. Fossum explores the aftershocks of the boy’s death for Carmen and Nicolai in a riveting tale that’s more psychological study than police procedural."--Publishers Weekly, STARRED

"Norway's Inspector Konrad Sejer, back from his hiatus (I Can See in the Dark, 2014, etc.) and feeling his mortality more acutely than ever, leads the inquiry into the death of a toddler with Down syndrome. It might not even seem like a suspicious death. Carmen Cesilie Zita, whose father owns the fast-food place where her husband, Nicolai Brandt, works, has gone and left their 16-month-old son, Tommy, alone in the room (Nicolai's in the basement repairing a bicycle) just long enough for him to stagger outside and tumble into a pond 50 meters away. But Sejer's friend and colleague Jacob Skarre thinks there's something off about Carmen, who weeps copiously but seems curiously detached and eager to get on with her life, getting rid of all Tommy's clothing and furniture with undue haste and asking Nicolai if they can get a dog now. The grieving father tells Sejer, "that's just how she is all the time….She's just pretending." There's little enough the police can do with a witness so artlessly determined to shrug them off, and readers who've followed Sejer's cases will know better than to expect a triumph of sweetness and light. Instead, they'll be asked to agonize along with Tommy's parents about whether it would have been better if Carmen had had an abortion and asked to hope along with Sejer that he isn't quite as decrepit as his mysterious spells of dizziness would suggest. Minimalist but compelling work from the author who seems to have inherited the late Ruth Rendell's gift of spinning the darkest complications out of what might seem like nothing at all."--Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
07/01/2015
When a young boy is found drowned in a pond near his home, it is explained away as an accident. Insp. Konrad Sejer suspects there is more to the story, however. As the mother, Carmen, changes her story to fit new evidence and the father spirals down into depression, Sejer pursues the evidence, even as it looks like the truth may never be known. The story is unraveled slowly, intermingling Sejer's dogged investigation with diary entries written by the young mother. The real strength of the book lies in the characters Fossum has crafted. Sejer is not the typical unhappy, unhealthy Scandinavian detective; instead, he's a widower who is kind to his suspects and colleagues alike. VERDICT Fossom's 12th Sejer installment doesn't disappoint. Her writing style keeps the reader guessing to the final page. This title will appeal to mystery readers of all stripes. [See Prepub Alert, 3/2/15.]—Portia Kapraun, Monticello-Union Township P.L., IN
Kirkus Reviews
2015-05-17
Norway's Inspector Konrad Sejer, back from his hiatus (I Can See in the Dark, 2014, etc.) and feeling his mortality more acutely than ever, leads the inquiry into the death of a toddler with Down syndrome. It might not even seem like a suspicious death. Carmen Cesilie Zita, whose father owns the fast-food place where her husband, Nicolai Brandt, works, has gone and left their 16-month-old son, Tommy, alone in the room (Nicolai's in the basement repairing a bicycle) just long enough for him to stagger outside and tumble into a pond 50 meters away. But Sejer's friend and colleague Jacob Skarre thinks there's something off about Carmen, who weeps copiously but seems curiously detached and eager to get on with her life, getting rid of all Tommy's clothing and furniture with undue haste and asking Nicolai if they can get a dog now. The grieving father tells Sejer, "that's just how she is all the time….She's just pretending." There's little enough the police can do with a witness so artlessly determined to shrug them off, and readers who've followed Sejer's cases will know better than to expect a triumph of sweetness and light. Instead, they'll be asked to agonize along with Tommy's parents about whether it would have been better if Carmen had had an abortion and asked to hope along with Sejer that he isn't quite as decrepit as his mysterious spells of dizziness would suggest. Minimalist but compelling work from the author who seems to have inherited the late Ruth Rendell's gift of spinning the darkest complications out of what might seem like nothing at all.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780544704848
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
08/09/2016
Series:
Inspector Sejer Series , #11
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
214,329
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.63(d)

Read an Excerpt

Why does my child have the eyes of a fish and the claws of a bird?
 
Prologue 
If a victim falls into water unexpectedly, he will immediately take one or two deep breaths (respiration surprise) and thus draw water down into the airways, which triggers violent and sustained coughing. When the victim is then wholly immersed in water, he holds his breath and will in most cases float up to the surface again. Whereupon he will gasp for air and once more draw water down into his lungs, thus causing further coughing. The drowning person is then overcome by panic and will scream and thrash with his arms and legs, splashing around on the surface, grabbing hold of anything within reach: a boat, an oar, a friend.

The head is immersed again and more water is drawn down into the lungs in deep breaths. The victim may float back up to the surface once or several times more, but not necessarily three as folklore would lead us to believe. Finally he sinks to the bottom and all is over. This struggle in the water can last for just under a minute or several minutes, depending on the physical health and general stamina of the victim. But eventually he will sink to the bottom, exhausted, open his mouth and draw the water down into his lungs. He will lose consciousness, go into spasms, and start retching; he will turn blue and become limp. And finally, following this fierce fight for life, he will fall into a coma and die.
 
 

The dizziness hit him in short, sharp bursts that overwhelmed him. Even though he fought against it, he lost his balance. This is not good, he thought to himself in desperation. This is it. He tried as best he could to stay on his feet, managing somehow to get over to the mirror on the wall to study his face with keen eyes. No, I can’t ignore it anymore. It must be a tumor, he thought, presumably a brain tumor. Why should I get away with it? I’m no better than anyone else, not in the slightest. Of course it was cancer. That’s what we die of these days, one in three, he thought. Even one in two if we live to be old enough. And soon I’ll be an old man; I’m halfway to a hundred. But I’m probably going to die now. Just like Elise died of cancer at the age of forty. Slowly, over time, she was drained of strength and became pale, jaundiced, and emaciated, with liver failure and all that goes with it. An attack of hysterical, rampant cell division as she lay in a cool white bed for those final hours in University Hospital. Stop, don’t think about that now. There’s enough suffering in the world.

He stood leaning against the wall for a while. Trying to breathe slowly and steadily, to gather his strength, pull himself together. Well, so be it, he thought. I can’t say I wasn’t prepared, because I am. I’ve always known it would end like this, known it for far too long. I subconsciously harbored the fear that it would get me in the end too. Like Elise. Struck down like lightning. By a virulent and aggressive disease: let’s get the lungs, now the bones, and then the brain. We’ll break this organism down, because that’s what we do. Got to be dignified about this, he thought. Don’t make a fuss — that’s never good. On the other hand, it might be nothing. Please, dear God, let it be nothing. What God? he asked himself in desperation. I don’t have a God, and perhaps I’m going to die. And afterward all will be dark and empty, a great nothingness, a deafening silence.

His cell phone started to ring in his pocket; despite all the chaos inside, he had to get a grip. He put the phone to his ear and heard the voice of his colleague Jacob Skarre on the other end. He sounded agitated. He was overwhelmed by another bout of dizziness. It was sudden and brutal and nearly knocked him off his feet. The cell phone fell out of his hand, so he bent down quickly to pick it up. But instead he managed to push it across the floor and under the sofa. He swore out loud and got down on his knees, then lay on his stomach and wriggled under the sofa. He spotted the phone right at the back against the baseboard. But then something caught his eye, something small and red. To his surprise, he saw that it was a Lego brick. It must have been there since Matteus was little and had managed to avoid the mop for years, a sign of sloppy work. It was a small square brick. A beautiful, completely perfect little red cube: the most versatile and beautiful brick there was, as it fit everywhere. He squeezed it in his hand and felt the sharp edges dig into his skin. And there, lying on his stomach under the sofa, childhood memories from Gamle Møllevej in Roskilde came flooding back. The white brick house with painted blue window-frames and hollyhocks by the wall, the lawn and old plum trees, and the brown speckled bantams that tripped around the lush, flowering garden. Every morning he was allowed to collect the tiny eggs in a basket. He remembered his father, stern and gray, tall and lean like himself, and his mother’s porcelain figurines in the kitchen window. He snapped back and wriggled out again. He lay there for a moment, gasping for breath.

“Are you there? What happened? Did you lose your balance again?”

He muttered something unintelligible in reply, embarrassed and evasive and anxious. “It was you who called,” he said brusquely. “You’re the one with something to tell.”

He sat up, brushed the dust from his shirt, and popped the Lego brick in his shirt pocket. The dizziness had finally subsided.

“We’ve got a drowning,” Skarre told him. “In Damtjern, the pond up by Granfoss, you remember? About twenty minutes from Møller Church. A little boy, sixteen months old. His mother found him by the small jetty, but it was too late. The ambulance crew tried to resuscitate him for about three-quarters of an hour, to no avail. Some uncertainty as to how he ended up in the water. Also, he was naked, but we’re not quite sure what that means. So pretty uncertain all around. He could of course have gotten there on his own two feet. But, well, I’m not so sure in this case. If you come over, perhaps we can sort it out. It’s the last house in Dambråten, white, with a red outhouse. The boy is lying on the grass here.”

“Right,” he said. “I’m on my way. There in half an hour.”

And then, after a short pause: “Is there something that doesn’t feel right? Is that why you called?”

“Yes,” Skarre replied, “it’s the mother. I can’t explain it, but I think we should look a bit closer. Let’s just leave it at that; you know what I mean.”

“Don’t let people stomp all over the place,” Sejer said. “Keep an eye on them. Where are the parents now?”

“At the station,” Skarre informed him. “Holthemann is looking after them. The mother is hysterical and the father hasn’t said a word.”
 

His dog, Frank Robert, a Chinese Shar-Pei whom he simply called Frank, raised his head in anticipation and looked at him eagerly. In among the folds and wrinkles so characteristic of the breed, he saw those intense eyes that always hit his soft spot. Eyes that pleaded and begged, that he found hard to resist and made his authority drain away like spilled water. The dog was his weakness and he did nothing to fight it; spoiling the wrinkly little mutt was his greatest pleasure. A pleasure that had resulted in a few too many pounds.

“Come on, fatty,” he said. “Let’s go out to the car.”

The dog jumped up, shot over to the door, and stood there whining; he couldn’t get out soon enough. Sejer’s apartment was on the twelfth floor, and they always used the stairs, the dog bounding down the steps in a steady, well-practiced rhythm. They came out onto the square and walked over to the car. The dog collapsed in the back seat of the Volvo with a great sigh, true to habit. A baby, Sejer thought, only sixteen months old. Well, it was, in all likelihood, an accident. Or it could have been the mother, unhappy or psychotic, or beside herself with rage at a difficult child. It had happened before. Or the father, or both of them together. That had also happened before.

Meet the Author

KARIN FOSSUM is the author of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer crime series. Her recent honors include a Gumshoe Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller. She lives in Norway.


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The Drowned Boy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
gloriafeit 24 days ago
From the publisher: Carmen and Nicolai failed to resuscitate their son, Tommy, after finding him drowning in their backyard pond. When Inspector Skarre arrives on the scene, Carmen reports that Tommy, a healthy toddler with Down’s syndrome, wandered into the garden while Nicolai was working in the basement and she was doing housework. Skarre senses something is off with Carmen’s story and consults his trusted colleague, the famed Inspector Sejer. An autopsy reveals Tommy’s lungs to be full of soap. I will go no further with the material from the back of the book for fear of spoilers. But the ensuing tale, dark almost by definition as it deals with the death of a 16-month old child, is a wonderful psychological thriller such as we have come to expect from this author. The child had just learned to walk. And he had certainly been a challenge to his parents, very young as they are: 19 and 20, respectively. DI Sejer, of the Sondre Buskerud Police District, has no proof, but his instincts tell him that there is something wrong with Carmen’s version of the events, and soon his younger colleague, Skarre, starts to feel the same way. What ensues is an intriguing tale, which begins in mid-August, ending in the summer of the following year. Sejer, now 55 years old, has always been a fascinating protagonist. His beloved wife had died of liver cancer, and he has for company only his daughter, Ingrid, and his Chinese shar-pei dog, Frank Robert, who is almost as much a presence as the humans around him. Sejer has of late been troubled by dizzy spells, although he puts off having himself checked out until nearly the end of the book. The reader does not find out the truth about the child’s death until about the same time, in a not entirely unexpected, but still stunning ending. Well-written and with wonderful descriptions of the characters, both outwardly and with some insight into their inner selves, the novel is recommended.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Anonymous 5 months ago
Great
Haziegaze More than 1 year ago
This is the 11th book in this particular series by this author and I have to admit that I have not read a single one before. Having said that, I’m not sure that I missed out not having read others which is a testament to the author’s ability to immerse you in the story and characters with ease. The story is a sad and difficult one - the death of 16 month old Tommy who happens to have Down’s Syndrome - but one which the author does with respect and compassion with a writing style that is easy to read and flows well. The characters are complex, interesting and well developed with the story being told from various points of view; this is particularly helpful as it enables the reader to get into the mind of the main characters. We feel the frustration as Inspector Sejer does - he has his doubts about the explanations around Tommy’s accident - he has a gut feeling that all is not what it seems and the author does a great job at putting this across to the reader. We feel the grief caused by such a tragic event and see how people react differently to it particularly the stark contrast between the parents. There is a character that I could quite happily have drowned myself - oh my word that person brought out the worst in me - but then another filled me with empathy and I just wanted to give them a hug. I love it when a book brings out these feelings in me and I think The Drowned Boy did this really well but, and it’s a big BUT, I was so disappointed with the ending. I actually gasped and tutted and said “what?” out loud - I was astonished it was so ridiculous and after such a well thought out story. Would I recommend this book to anyone else? Probably, but with a warning not to expect too much at the end. Would I read more from this author? Possibly but I think I would read some reviews first. Thank to the publisher, Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, via NetGalley for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.
PagesofComfort More than 1 year ago
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was immediately drawn to this book after seeing the cover and reading the synopsis. I knew I had to read it even though I haven't read anything else by this author. I was a little concerned at first that I hadn't read the other books in this series, but after reading this, I'm guessing they can be read out of order. I didn't feel like I had missed anything by not reading the others. Though reading this definitely makes me want to read some more of Fossum's work. This was an interesting book and I really enjoyed reading it. It's a little slower paced than some other mysteries that I've read, but it was a nice change. But even though it was slower, I didn't lose interest and it wasn't missing anything. Inspector Sejer is a really unique character; he lives alone with his dog but there's definitely a lot that has gone on in his life. Carmen absolutely drove me crazy in this book; I didn't like her from the very beginning. It was her mannerisms and personality that just didn't fit with mine. She was too blasé about her child dying and wanted to move on too fast after. And poor Nicolai; he was clearly torn up about Tommy dying and I felt so bad for him. It's interesting to watch this story unfold and find out what happened to Tommy. It's definitely a book that kept me interested and I'm glad that I was given the chance to read this! pagesofcomfort.blogspot.com
Anonymous 9 months ago
A haunting mystery. Sejer and Frank are stars.